Some people soon should be able to enroll online in Missouri's Medicaid health care program for the poor, instead of through paper applications, as part of a new system that's scheduled to begin by Oct. 1.
The state awarded a contract for the online enrollment system to EngagePoint, a Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based firm that is designing similar eligibility systems for Arkansas, Minnesota and Maryland, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Monday.
Missouri currently uses a paper-based process to verify eligibility for most Medicaid benefits. State workers type the information into a 17-year-old program known as the Family Assistance Management Information System.
Fewer state employees will be needed with the new system, which can automatically cross-check applicants' incomes and citizenship with other government databases, said Alyson Campbell, director of the state's Family Support Division, which determines Medicaid eligibility.
Medicaid currently covers more than 870,000 lower-income Missourians.
Part of the new enrollment system must be operating by Oct. 1, when consumers can start shopping online for private health plans through a federally run health insurance exchange. Under the federal Affordable Care Act, the information that people type into the federal portal is supposed to transfer to a state website if the person is eligible for Medicaid.
For the budget year that began Monday, legislators appropriated nearly $69 million for the online enrollment system, of which $7.2 million is state general revenue and the rest is federal money. Overall, EngagePoint is to receive nearly $110 million to design, install and maintain the new system over the next five years. With five additional annual extensions, the cost could reach $147 million.
EngagePoint won the contract June 6 after a competitive bidding process that also included IBM of Armonk, New York; Infosys of Rockville, Md.; and Wipro of East Brunswick, N.J.
Getting the new system running in three months is an ambitious goal, but one which EngagePoint says it can meet.
"The work that we're doing in other states — in Maryland, Arkansas and Minnesota — is the key," said T. David Smith, a senior vice president for sales and marketing at EngagePoint. "We can certainly leverage that to make Missouri a successful implementation."
The Oct. 1 rollout is supposed to allow the state to electronically receive Medicaid applications and determine eligibility for pregnant women, parents and children. Eventually, the system also will handle Medicaid applications from people who are elderly and disabled, as well as requests for food stamps and cash welfare payments.
The state says the new technology will lead to the consolidation of dozens of state offices and the elimination of 708 state jobs over the next five years. Officials hope to make the cuts through attrition.
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Missouri has long operated family support offices in each of its 114 counties and the city of St. Louis. After the reorganization, the state will handle cases out of 31 "processing centers" around the state. One- or two-person "resource centers" will still be located in every county so that applicants can drop off information.